Kuala Lumpur, 3 December 2015 – During a forum organised today by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), Mmusi Maimane, the first black leader of South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance party and well-known for his vocal anti- corruption stance, spoke on the country’s struggles in dealing with the legacies ofapartheid and the ongoing challenge of addressing economic inequality.
Providing commentary on the issues raised, Dr Lee Hwok Aun from Universiti Malaya’s Faculty of Economics and Administration, continued the discussion with excerpts from his paper “Affirmative Action in Malaysia and South Africa: Contrasting Structure, Continuing Pursuits.”
IDEAS President, Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz, in his earlier welcome remarks reminded those present of the historical relationship which exists between Malaysia and South Africa in freeing the latter from the shackles of apartheid and dealing with racism.
He also spoke of the potential for well-intended policies to be abused. “We know all about how policies derived from noble intentions for the equitable distribution of wealth amongst ethnically-defined communities can degenerate into tools for oppression and fostering an environment of dependence.”
Reaffirming Tunku ‘Abidin’s sentiment, IDEAS Chief Executive and forum moderator Wan Saiful Wan Jan said, “Listening to Mr Maimane, I came to the conclusion that affirmative action does have its uses but there must be clear targets and timeframe. Otherwise it will open the door for abuses and dependency on government handouts.“
“In fact, if we look at Malaysia, the good intentioned affirmative action policies introduced by our earlier leaders have even been used by some racists and bigots as a tool to further their own narrow interests at the expense of the wider benefits envisioned in the 1970s. We need to discuss the issue constructively if we really want our country to move forward. Economically, the continuation of race-based policies may prevent us from properly integrating into the global supply chain and this would have serious negative impact on our country’s future.”
The forum titled “Liberalism as a Force Against Racism: The South African Experience” compared and contrasted the experiences of Malaysia and South Africa in dealing with racism and affirmative action policies.
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